In many communities, animal control still means dog
catcher. And everyone knows what that means. It’s no surprise
that animal rescue groups and others have had an uneasy
relationship with the municipal facilities whose solution to the
problem of stray cats and dogs can often be a very final one.
But as a ‘no-kill’ movement continues to spread, animal control
departments across the country are rethinking their traditional
role. In the Phoenix area, for instance, rescue groups, shelters,
and veterinarians have joined together to help end the killing of
healthy homeless pets. Leading this radical experiment is Ed Boks,
a former pastor who headed Maricopa County Animal Care and Control
and was recently named executive director of New York City Animal
Care and Control. He recently shared a few thoughts with the pet
lovers’ magazine Best Friends:
You’ve said that animal control should lead the no-kill
Absolutely! Since we play the unfortunate role of having to
euthanize homeless animals, we provide each community with a
benchmark for determining how well they are treating their
Do you think city governments should be putting more
money into animal control?
In the current fiscal climate, the idea that municipalities
should be spending more is not going to fly. If we view Maricopa
County as a model, it shows that there are people in every
community who care very deeply and are willing to help with
donations and grants. For our animal care side, we developed our
own 501(c)3 charity, called Friends of Animal Care and Control, to
raise money for animal welfare programs. I don’t think we have to
tax people more to solve this problem. When the community comes
together and solves the problem, everyone feels good about it.
What’s the most important element in what you did in
Our Big Fix program, which provides free or low-cost spay/neuter
services for the pets of anybody on public assistance.
Is the Big Fix working?
In 2002 we saw our first decrease in animal rescues in 15 years.
We attributed the decline to our spay/neuter and education
programs. . . . Adoptions have gone up, too. Maricopa Animal Care
and Control finds homes for nearly 22,000 animals a year, making it
the number one pet adoption agency in the world.
For more information, go to
Adapted from a longer interview in Best Friends (Jan./Feb.
2003). Subscriptions: Donate at least $25/yr. (6 issues) to Best
Friends Animal Sanctuary, 5001 Angel Canyon Rd., Kanab, UT 84741;